Prescription medication Zoloft (sertraline chloride) was introduced by Pfizer in 1991. It became very popular in part due to an aggressive marketing campaign that included a popular animated bouncing ball. It gradually became one of the most popular antidepressants in this country. However, recently, it has been suggested that Zoloft is linked to various birth defects.
Currently, over 250 lawsuits are running in Philadelphia’s federal court, alleging that Zoloft caused a range of birth defects. It is expected that this number will increase over time. In the lawsuits, it is alleged that women who took the drug during pregnancy are at an increased risk of having children with birth defects, such as cleft palate, hole in the heart, spina bifida, club feet, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and skull defects. Some of these birth defects have the potential to be fatal. Those who survive often have to spend significant parts of their lives in surgery and under medical care, often requiring permanent monitoring. Sometimes, the birth defects stay with the children into adulthood, meaning they have a life-limiting condition. Unsurprisingly, many people are now taking legal action against Pfizer in relation to this.
Examples of Zoloft Lawsuits
As more and more cases get filed against Pfizer, and because it is believed that this number will grow, all cases have been consolidated into an MDL (multidistrict litigation), which is running in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Judge Cynthia M. Rufe is presiding over all the cases within the MDL. Doing so will allow for a smoother and quicker process, ensuring people are able to access their compensation if they are entitled to it.
Judge Rufe immediately appointed a number of attorneys to be part of the Zoloft Plaintiffs Steering Committee. It is their responsibility to manage the cases’ process and to act as a liaison for plaintiffs. So far, the defendant has submitted several million documents in direct response to individual plaintiff’s requests for records. This process is known as ‘discovery’. Additionally, it is believed Pfizer will soon issue its defense to their various accusations made in the complaints by the different plaintiffs. Additionally, there continue to be ongoing status conferences.
Children vs Zoloft
In Wayne County Circuit Court in Virginia, a separate lawsuit is now underway against Zoloft. This case was filed by now adult children who have been affected by the drug after their mothers took it during pregnancy. More cases are regularly being added to this suit as well. Over 250 individual people have now filed, each with a unique story on how the drug changed their lives. In each case, the mothers took Zoloft believing it would make their life better, rather than cause their children be born with significant birth defects. It is alleged that the mothers, children and their families all continue to suffer as a result.
Eaton v. Pfizer
Wisconsin couple Ryan and Justyne Eaton filed a lawsuit against Pfizer in January 2013, alleging that taking Zoloft during pregnancy led to the wrongful death of Aubrey, their daughter. Aubrey was born with various birth defects, including severe fluid buildup in the skull, malformations of the brain, lung defects, and more. She died in infancy as a direct result of these injuries.
In their claim, the Eatons state that Pfizer should reasonably have been expected to know that Zoloft was linked to an increase in chances of developing birth defects. Yet, they claim, the manufacturer did not take any action to lower the risk or warn the public. Rather, they suppressed and concealed these dangers.
Reese v. Pfizer
A 21 year old Bostonian, Tyreke Reese filed a suit against Pfizer in June 2012. She alleged that she suffered birth defects, including an atrial septal defect, because her mother took Zoloft during pregnancy. Her heart defect has left her with a hole in between the heart’s two top chambers.
Byington v. Pfizer
Idaho couple Jade and Jason Byongton filed a suit against Pfizer in July 2012. Their daughter Sadie was born with significant birth defects, most notably an improperly formed heart.
Ciccone v. Pfizer
In the case of the Ciccone family from Pennsylvania, it is alleged that Denise Ciccone took Zoloft on prescription during pregnancy and this led to her daughter being born with various birth defects, including heart problems and a clubbed foot. Noelle, the daughter, was 10 years old when the family filed the suit in 2012.
In each of these lawsuits, Pfizer is accused of a number of negligent acts. These include:
• Selling, marketing and producing a dangerous drug – Zoloft.
• Being negligent in warning the public, the FDA and medical professionals about the links between Zoloft and birth defects.
• Not conducting safety surveillance post-marketing and not reporting on this.
• Not disclosing information revealed by Zoloft safety studies.
• Misrepresenting Zoloft as being a drug that is safe to use by pregnant woman.
• Marketing and promoting the drug to pregnant women despite knowing that studies have shown a link between the drug and birth defects.
• Not acting responsibly and failing to uphold the best interests of the public.
Why People File Zoloft Lawsuits
In the various lawsuits, Pfizer is accused of advertising Zoloft specifically to pregnant women, even though they were aware of the fact that there is a link between the drug and birth defects. When a drug manufacturer does not warn the public, physicians and the FDA about dangers, innocent people will possibly suffer terrible consequences. This is why all drug makers have a duty of care towards patients. They must properly test all their products and provide full openness and transparency about any identified risks. If they fail to do so, they can be held legally liable for any injuries they have caused.
Birth defects are the most devastating types of injuries associated with Zoloft. Some of the reported injuries include:
• Ventricular septal defects (VSD)
• Atrial septal defects (ASD)
• Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)
• Craniopsynostosis (skull defects)
• Omphalocele (abdominal defects)
• Tetralogy of the fallot (TOF) with pulmonary atresia
• Club feet
• Transposition of the great arteries
• Congenital heart defects
• Spina bifida
All of these conditions can be life threatening. It is not surprising, therefore, that parents who have children with any of these types of injuries suffer great mental anguish and heartache. Furthermore, they will have to be able to cover the significant medical expenses associated with the treatment of congenital deformities and birth defects. Making sure they are able to meet the medical needs of their child can also mean that they are no longer able to earn, landing people in abject poverty, unable to meet their regular financial responsibilities.
It is for these reasons that so many people are now filing suits against Pfizer. They seek compensation to be able to pay their medical bills and to continue the necessary care of their children that have been affected by birth defects. They seek retribution for their pain and suffering and for their lost wages. It is not unheard of for juries to also award punitive damages, which is essentially done as a message to stop manufacturers from continuing to engage in their behaviors.
Do You Know Your Legal Rights?
According to the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), all pharmaceutical companies have to inform consumers (including patients and physicians) about any dangers that they know are associated with any type of drug they manufacture and distribute. If you took Zoloft during pregnancy and your child was born with a birth defect (fatal or not), you have legal rights to exert. It is vital that you speak to an experienced lawyer who can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.